Now it really is safe to go back in the water and read ebooks

Despite tablets taking an increasing share of the market, ebook retailers are still churning out their own e-readers, with Kobo the latest to come up with a novel device for reading ebooks in the bath.

The Kobo Aura H2O is claimed to be the world’s first premium waterproof E Ink e-reader and the company says the device allows readers to immerse themselves in ebooks anywhere they want to read, including what it refers to as “previously risky places like the bath or at the beach”.

The Aura H2O comes in black only and should be selling for $179.99 online and in-store in the US and Canda while the UK price is set at £139.99 and people in the EU will pay €179.99.

It goes on sale on October 1 in the US, Canada, the US, the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain, with more countries to follow. Pre-orders are available at retailers and in Canada, the US, and the UK.

It doesn’t sound like a great financial deal when compared with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook launched last week, which is also on sale at $179.99 and has the advantage of being a tablet which can run many other apps, although, of course, you’ve got to take some care if you’re using it while surfing as it’s probably not up to a prolonged dip in the ocean.

Nook also offers the GlowLight e-reader at just £89.99 in the UK. The Kindle Paperwhite is available at around £99 in the UK and you can get it for $119 in the US.

Specialist device for committed ebook readers

But Kobo says this is a specialist device for committed ebook readers, which is actually a pretty smart strategy targeting the real enthusiasts rather than trying to cover a wide and disparate market.

Kobo President and Chief Content Officer Michael Tamblyn says: “We are most interested in those people who put books at the centre of their lives – what they want to see next, what gets them excited.

“When we asked our customers what held them back from reading more ebooks, many told us they love to read in the bath, by the pool, or on the beach, but believed that devices and water didn’t mix.

“As we dug deeper, we found that more than 60% of customers surveyed said they would love to be able read near water without worry. We designed the Kobo Aura H2O so ebooks could be just as common at the beach or in the bath as they are on the bus or in bed.”

Font of knowledge

The Aura H2O is IP67-certified, which is said to mean it’s waterproof for up to 30 minutes in 1 metre of water with the port cover closed. The device is also designed to be dustproof and has an anti-glare display.

Kobo claims the device has the highest-resolution E Ink display available in an e-reader today. The 6.8” touchscreen has a resolution of 265dpi with upgraded Carta E Ink technology. It features a 1GHz processor which means page turns should be swift, and has 4GB of onboard storage (expandable up to 32GB with a microSD card), and battery life of up to two months.

But the most interesting thing about this e-reader for me is the display software. The Aura H2O has 10 fonts which can be displayed at 24 font sizes, with adjustable font sharpness and weight setting.

This sounds like a really worthwhile advance when you consider the Paperwhite has, I believe, only five fonts, while even the Kindle Fire HDX features just seven fonts, 11 choices of font sizes and no sharpness or weight options.

You can, in fact, add your own fonts to a Kindle device but not only it is awkward, the fonts themselves are not exactly going to be optimised for e-reader display. I have written about typography for ebooks some time ago and the situation really hasn’t changed very much, with the same selection of rather tried old favorites and a few choices that are open to debate. At least Kobo is making some progress on the issue and offering a wider choice with many more options.

How to choose typography for ebooks